David Bianculli

David Bianculli is a guest host and TV critic on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross. A contributor to the show since its inception, he has been a TV critic since 1975.

From 1993 to 2007, Bianculli was a TV critic for the New York Daily News.

Bianculli has written three books: Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of 'The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 2009),  Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously (1992), and Dictionary of Teleliteracy (1996).

An associate professor of TV and film at Rowan University in New Jersey, Bianculli is also the founder and editor of the online magazine, TVWorthWatching.com.

For years now, The Good Wife has been the best drama series on broadcast television, but it deserves even more praise than that. From the start, show creators Robert and Michelle King have had to deal with restrictive network standards, inconsistent scheduling, intrusive advertising breaks and a production order of 22 episodes per season — almost twice that of its cable and streaming competition.

When The X-Files appeared on TV in the 1990s, there really hadn't been anything quite like it on TV for a long time. The Twilight Zone, with its monsters and flying saucers and anything-goes mentality, was an obvious inspiration and precursor. But investigations of unusual or unearthly phenomena, dramatized in a weekly series in ways that could be scary or funny, or both? As TV shows go, that's about as rare a sighting as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.

When it came to new programming, broadcast TV didn't impress critic David Bianculli much this year. But if you add in cable and streaming services, then the story changes.

All told, cable and streaming made it "another great year for TV," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. The year was so good, in fact, Bianculli says he could have made a Top 20 or even a Top 30 list, but in keeping with tradition, he has narrowed it down to 10 — OK, fine, 11 — picks:

A Very Murray Christmas is directed and co-written by Sofia Coppola, who also worked with Bill Murray on the movie Lost in Translation. In that film, Murray played an actor in Japan, reluctantly doing a series of commercials there, and not at all happy.

In A Very Murray Christmas, Murray starts out in much the same mood — he's in his room at New York's Carlyle Hotel, killing time with old friend Paul Shaffer, who's noodling at the piano. Outside, a snowstorm is raging. Inside, Bill Murray is pouting and singing a somber Christmas song.

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For broadcast TV, this year's fall season has been decidedly, and disappointingly, below average, especially for drama series. But on streaming television, there's a new show — available on Amazon Prime Video in its first-season entirety on Friday — that's about to change all that.

The show is called The Man in the High Castle. It's based on a novel by Philip K. Dick, the same writer whose stories inspired the movies Blade Runner and Total Recall, and it's excellent.

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Supergirl, premiering Monday night on CBS, follows in the same path of other prime-time DC Comics superheroes established on the CW by Arrow and The Flash. And they're only part of a much wider trend, because superheroes are as popular, and profitable, on TV as they are in the movies.

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Tonight, the TV drama series "Fargo" begins its second season on the FX Network. It has a new story and a new cast, but one familiar character is at its center. Our TV critic David Bianculli has a review.

One of the newest trends on TV — and one of the most intriguing — is the season-long anthology drama series. In the Golden Age of TV, back in the 1950s, anthology series presented a brand-new story and cast every week. A lonely butcher named Marty looking for love. Jurors arguing over a verdict in 12 Angry Men. Mannequins coming to life in The Twilight Zone.

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Over the past few years, NBC has tried a few times to revive the prime-time variety show, a TV format that once was as popular and ubiquitous as reality TV is today. NBC even has tried to inject the variety television genre with the excitement of live television, in hopes of luring viewers back to their television sets in real time.

First nights on TV talk shows provide quick, and sometimes misleading, first impressions. As Stephen Colbert joked in his opening monologue, he had nine months to plan his first show. But first impressions do count for a lot, especially about the structure — and atmosphere — a new host brings to the job.

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This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has reviews of two very different new TV projects, IFC's "Documentary Now!" which premieres tonight, and AMC's "Fear The Walking Dead," which begins Sunday.

By now, viewers know what to expect from a David Simon drama. You expect an intense study of a precise location, as with Baltimore in The Wire and New Orleans in Treme. You expect flawed, fascinating and unforgettable characters — like Omar in The Wire, just to name one. And you expect the story to raise issues, especially about race and politics, that are unfortunately relevant to today.

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Last weekend, HBO presented the season finales of its three Sunday night prime-time spring series, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and Veep. This weekend, HBO unveils its new Sunday night lineup: the all-new second season of True Detective, and two new comedies, Ballers, starring Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the wrestler called The Rock, and The Brink, starring Tim Robbins and Jack Black.

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This is FRESH AIR. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, has a review of several recently released big DVD box sets. He says there are reasons to grab them now while you can.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW")

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This is FRESH AIR. The TV series "Justified" ended its run on the FX cable network last night. Our TV critic, David Bianculli, couldn't wait to talk about it, so here he is.

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